END OF AN ERA? Saints 6th Straight Win Might Be Their Most Expensive Victory Ever

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on Twitter.com (Original by Michael C. Hebert)

Remember this moment in time, Who Dat fans. Because these next few weeks and months ahead might be one of the last few times that you’re ever going to see Drew Brees as an active NFL player and as the starting QB for the New Orleans Saints.

Despite his recent stellar play however, it appears that Brees’ age and 41-year old body (he turns 42 in January) might just be finally catching up to him; and if that’s the case we all could be witnessing now in real time what likely will be his one last “final run” as the leader of the franchise.

Brees has been playing at a high level throughout the team’s current winning streak that has now reached 6-in-a-row with yesterday’s 27-13 win over their long-time conference rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. Brees’ outstanding play along with a suddenly-surging defense over the course of that time, has allowed the Black and Gold to improve their win-loss record to (7-2) overall and remain among the top teams within the NFC.

But yesterday, one of the greatest fears among the many Saints fans out there came true — when a tough hit on Brees in the pocket administered by 49ers defensive end / tackle Kentavius Street midway through the 2nd Quarter — appeared to knock the wind out of Brees, before everyone realized the seriousness of the injury. Street was penalized for roughing the passer on the play.

Brees managed to finish out the 1st Half, but clearly appeared to be in some discomfort following the hit. Up until that point, Brees had completed 8 out of 13 pass attempts for 76 yards and a TD prior to exiting the line-up. TV cameras on the sidelines caught Brees telling Payton that he was taking himself out of the game, as the 3rd Quarter got underway.

In his Zoom post-game press conference with local NOLA media, Saints head coach Sean Payton addressed the obvious question that was on everyone’s mind, especially considering that this year’s #1 goal for the organization has been labeled as a “Super Bowl or bust” season; as they attempt to win a World Championship before Brees retires.

However, yesterday’s events might suggest that Brees’ eventual retirement might be coming a lot sooner than anyone had anticipated.

Payton noted that Brees is set to undergo an MRI and X-Rays to determine the severity of the injury, and the potential is that he could miss anywhere from 4-to-6 weeks with the injury.

“He took a heavy shot in the first half. As he came out in the second half, he felt it was really impacting him,” Payton told reporters.

“So, specifically, he’ll get an MRI and X-Rays. His back felt sore. As he tried to throw, he just came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t feel like I’m capable of playing.’ And so, quickly, we made the switch and, you know, that happens sometimes.”

“He felt strong enough about letting me know and I know when he does that, which is probably gonna be the first time in 15 years, that it was significant enough where he felt like he couldn’t function in the second half.”

Brees’ availability for next Sunday against the Saints’ hated arch-rivals the Atlanta Falcons is unclear at this point, and although no one questions Brees’ heart and desire to win, the smarter idea right now seemingly would be to allow current #2 back-up QB Jameis Winston to start at QB for the next several games, before ultimately easing Brees back into the line-up.

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on Twitter.com (Original by Michael C. Hebert)

But make no mistake about this much (coming from someone older than Brees): “getting old” and unable to do the things physically that we used to be able to do when we were younger, starts to hit you right around the age that Brees currently is now.

But perhaps much more revealing was Brees’ comments in his own post-game conference, in which he acknowledged that he’s been dealing with a variety of body ailments that has somewhat limited his effectiveness; and for those of you who are able to “read between the lines”, sounded very much like a player who knows his career is now in its final stages.

On if the injury was a cramping/stiffening injury:
“That’s a good way to put it. Yeah. Listen, I can’t really describe it other than it was preventing me from doing my job.”

On if he is currently in serious pain:
“I wouldn’t call it that. But it’s just something, definitely something that needs to be dealt with.”

On if the injury was rib related:
“Yeah. And yeah, I mean, it’s a cumulative thing. Probably not just one.”

The key word in those comments: cumulative. As in: if it’s not one thing, than it’s another.

Suggestions are that Brees is also having back issues, and may be experiencing some discomfort with his surgically-repaired labrum in his right throwing shoulder that he suffered while he was QB for the Chargers in 2005 (he’s been seen with athletic tape affixed to that same shoulder in previous games).

Photo Credit: K.C. Alfred, Union-Tribune

And if these injuries are indeed cumulative and are continuing to happen with more frequency, the idea that we could be witnessing the last few months of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees Era is a very realistic one.

If there is actually any silver lining, it’s that at least we should have a handful of games in the next few weeks to accurately judge if Winston or Taysom Hill, is the more qualified to succeed Brees as the next “franchise” QB.

However, if the Saints harbor any real intentions of winning Super Bowl LV (55) in slightly less than 3 more months from now, they already know that their chances are likely going to be much greater with #9 under center; and guiding the Saints offense in the very same manner as he has for the past 15 years.

So just hold on tight, Who Dats; and try to allow yourself to enjoy all of the wonderful emotions that come along on a Monday Morning with another hard-fought Saints victory.

But also be aware that we might be witnessing history right before our very eyes.

Photo Credit: New Orleans Saints on YouTube.com / Michael C. Hebert

Because if the “end of era” is truly upon us, then we can only hope that Brees can get one more Super Bowl ring before reality slaps each and everyone of us squarely in the face.

The Saints have won 6th straight and now are playing their best football of the season. But that win yesterday just might end up being their most expensive victory ever….

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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